Gaming industry consultancy Spectrum Gaming Group LLC, a specialist in topics linked to legal compliance of the regulated casino sector, has issued its “Top Ten Trends for 2020” list previewing the likely direction of the sector in the next calendar year,
For 2020, Spectrum puts Japan-related issues in first place in terms of importance. The organisation suggested 2020 would be the “Year of the Prefecture” – a reference to a typical unit of local government in Japan. Prefectures – and some so-called ordinance-level large cities – will be vying for casino industry private-sector partners, with which they can respectively make a bid to the national government for one of the maximum three licences available for large-scale casino complexes or integrated resorts (“IRs”) as they are known in Japan.
“Prefectures will establish working groups and advisory councils to assist in this process and by the end of next year one or more prefectures will have selected their IR operator partner,” stated Spectrum in its lookahead for 2020.
It added: “Meanwhile, the national government will name the commissioners to the casino regulatory commission and the regulatory agency will become operative by issuing a series of regulatory guidelines.”
Second, the “internationalisation” of gaming brands would continue, suggested Spectrum, with “Hard Rock International, Melco Resorts and Entertainment [Ltd], and MGM Resorts International leading the pack.” A greater number of jurisdictions in “Europe, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere” would seek out such brands in order to develop casino resorts, seeing such business as a potential stimulus to their local economy.
Third, In the United States, while online gaming had been actively available in certain places for more than five years, “more states will expand into this area in 2020,” suggested Spectrum, adding digital sports betting would also continue to expand.
“Those simultaneous trends could lead to more conflicts between lotteries and casino operators, as both industries look to igaming and sports betting as the means to attract younger demographics,” said the consultancy.
Fourth, said Spectrum, electronic gaming devices characterised as offering “skill-based” play would become “pervasive throughout the United States, garnering support from legislators seeking additional revenue as well as from retailers attracted by the prospect of additional revenue and foot traffic”.
Fifth, suggested Spectrum, as mergers and acquisitions among gaming companies continued – as an example, the proposed US$17-billion merger of regional U.S. casino firm Eldorado Resorts Inc with the much larger Caesars Entertainment Corp is to be put to shareholder meetings of the respective firms on November 15 – “more states will find themselves in a position in which their licensees operate facilities in nearby states”.
“This will put pressure on states to develop more investment-friendly regulatory and tax systems to keep capital, jobs and revenue from flowing to more appealing jurisdictions,” the consultancy surmised.
AML in Asia, crypto
Sixth, the Asia-Pacific Group, the organisation affiliated with the Financial Action Task Force in Paris overseeing anti-money-laundering issues worldwide, would “continue to push countries in Southeast Asia to increase their regulation of gaming especially in the areas of licensing (determining beneficial ownership of casinos and online casinos) and anti-money-laundering,” stated Spectrum.
Seventh, “crypto-based betting and gaming will continue to gain momentum,” stated the lookahead paper.
Eighth, cash handle from betting on team-based leagues and players in competitive e-sports gaming would “grow in international regulated markets”. But in the U.S., “e-sports betting will remain minimal as the domestic gaming industry continues to focus on traditional sports betting, and will not devote significant resources to e-sports”, said Spectrum.
Ninth, in Europe gambling advertising would come under “increasing pressure and scrutiny in the face of regulatory and public concerns that some messages do not sufficiently promote responsible gaming policies and practices, as required by law,” indicated the consultancy.
Tenth, separating real estate from gaming operations via the device of a real estate investment trust (REIT) – as has occurred with the Caesars brand in the U.S. and with the U.S. business of MGM Resorts International, the parent of Macau casino firm MGM China Holdings Ltd – “will become a more commonplace activity,” said Spectrum.
“At least one more REIT will enter the gaming field to provide more competition” to the segment leaders Gaming and Leisure Properties Inc, MGM Growth Properties LLC and Caesars Entertainment’s Vici Properties Inc, said Spectrum.
“Non-gaming real estate funds” run by the likes of Blackstone Group Inc would “continue to buy well-located but underperforming” casino properties, surmised Spectrum.
In its 2019 lookahead issued in October 2018, Spectrum had forecast that the streaming of casino games to China from the Philippines and Cambodia would face greater scrutiny this year from China and from international regulators.
Earlier this autumn, Cambodia said it would not issue any more online gaming licences, and shortly after the Philippines said it would have a pause in issuing fresh “POGO” or “Philippine Online Gaming Operator” permits. The Philippines subsequently clarified it reserved the right to decide its own public policy on licensing such offshore-facing gaming product, although China made it clear it would prefer its neighbour to ban such business, as China fears the target market is overwhelmingly Chinese nationals within the boundaries of mainland China, where casino gambling is illegal. In September, the Philippine leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, said online gaming services would not be banned.
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”To date, we have responded to eight cities and prefectures [in Japan] for requests for information or requests for concepts including most recently in Osaka and we are now preparing for Yokohama”
Francis Lui Yiu Tung
Vice chairman of Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group